10 July 2012
The Tigers were seemingly on a role in Kansas City this week. Top position player prospect Nick Castellanos finished the Futures Game on Sunday night with an MVP trophy in hand after a three hit day that included a three-run homer for the USA squad. Prince Fielder took home the Home Run Derby crown on Monday night – the second of his career – by besting Toronto’s Jose Bautista in the final round.
Tuesday night was supposed to be Justin Verlander’s night. The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young award winner was slated to take the hill for the American League squad in Kansas City. AL Manager Ron Washington had announced that he planned on using Verlander for two innings before going to his bullpen, but things didn’t go as planned.
Verlander began the game by striking out Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies on a swinging third strike, but the National League quickly rallied to get on the board. Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants knocked a hard single to left field, and Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun plated him with a deep double off the right field fence. Verlander settled himself down in time to get Cincinnati’s Joey Votto out on a called third strike, but the NL was just beginning to do their damage.Carlos Beltran of the St. Louis Cardinals and Buster Posey of the Giants drew back-to-back walks to load the bases for Pablo Sandoval (also of the Giants) who promptly tripled them all home. Atlanta’s Dan Uggla followed with an RBI single before Rafael Furcal of the Cardinals mercifully grounded out to end the inning.
In all, Verlander faced nine batters and threw 35 pitches while allowing five runs on four hits. He wouldn’t get a second inning.
It wasn’t the type of outing that anyone’s come to expect from Verlander, but it’s infinitely better that this type of implosion occurred in an All-Star game instead of a regular game. It’s probably wrong to read much of anything into the outcomes of his pitches, but it appeared that he came out of the gate trying to overpower every hitter much like he did early in his career. His first fastball was clocked at 97 miles per hour, and he even hit 100 in the inning, and although that type of velocity is definitely in his tool bag, he generally reserves it for later in a game once he’s established his rhythm.
Verlander has shown great composure over the last couple of years, so there’s little doubt in my mind that he’ll be able to overcome this disappointing performance. He’s shown that he can use these types of experiences to learn from so there should be no expectations of a sub-par second half from the Tigers’ ace.